The comments I got the other day on the, So how much living space do you actually need?, post got me thinking. And that’s never a good thing. But I got to ponderin’ how our living space affects our lives.
We all have in mind at one time or another some sort of dream home. That special place, be it a small cabin in the woods or a castle on a hill, that is just the right spot for us to live in and do whatever it is we do in our lives. It’s no small matter either. Usually a home is one of the most expensive investments the average person makes in their life so naturally, we are choosy about the location, design, and desirability. But there some things I don’t understand when it comes to finding that dream home.
People may take weeks, months, or even years to find just the right place. Endless drives to visit open houses, making plans with a builder, running a real estate agent ragged. And when they finally find that one special-just-right-this-is-the-one-perfect home, what do they do? Start renovating it. If the house was so perfect, why tear it up? I can understand replacing worn out stuff like carpets or woodwork, that sort of thing. I also understand the need to protect one’s investment. But I also see a lot of people who’s life has been overtaken by the obsession of home ownership. Ever spare minute of their lives is spent on that house. Repairing this, renovating that, upgrades, new appliances, watching endless home improvement programs for new ideas, getting on a first name basis with the staff at the local Home Depot. Virtually everything revolves around the house. It dictates where the money goes, how the time is spent, and the quality of one’s life.
My parents were like that. They found their dream house back in the early 1970’s. A nice two story three bedroom/ bath and a half with detached garage. It sat in a quiet country village with a nice yard, some woods on a hill behind it and 6 beautiful maple trees lining the driveway. The first thing they did was rip out all the carpeting, paint the walls, and then my old man bought his first chain saw. When he was done there were just 2 maples left and the big apple tree in the side yard was history also. The sun porch got converted to a bar, the kitchen got renovated at least twice over the time they lived there. New windows, new roof, patio, the projects never stopped. When the house was sold 35 years later, and the new owners moved in, the first thing they did was tear out the carpets and paint the walls. It’s like some sort of bizarre never ending house renovation loop from hell.
Personally I never had any sentimental feelings for the place. I only lived there for a couple of years and I was gone. Some years later my Dad told me that I would inherit the place when he was gone. He got a bit testy when I informed him that there was no way in hell I was ever coming back to live there and all I would do is to sell the place. After he died and Mom inherited the place she finally realized it was way more than she could handle and with my blessing she was able to sell it in spite of a tanking real estate market. She says she is glad she got rid of it but you can sense she misses the old place. She stopped in later after it was sold for a visit and saw all the new renovations and changes that the new owners put into it. While she didn’t say it, you could tell she was a bit saddened by the fact that all those years of repairs and upgrades meant nothing in the end. The house she once lived in no longer existed. But, there is a happy ending here. She moved into a nice new 2 bedroom apartment where all the repairs are done by the staff. It’s secure, requires little maintenance, and she now has time to go and do things which she never had before. She now has a life outside of her home and she seems quite happy with it.
Personally, I’ve never been much of a handy man. Giving me some tools like a hammer and a saw is no different than giving me a high powered rifle, a bottle of hard liquor, and the addresses to my ex girlfriends. Guaranteed there will be some blood spilled. When I owned my little hovel I despised having to spend my days off involved in some home project. Cut the grass, it just grows back, replace the water heater, it fails in a couple of years, vacuum the carpets, and in another month you have to do it again. It never ends. I always felt I was missing out on life when I was doing repairs or maintenance to the house. And, I was. Trust me on this one, I would rather have a bucket list than a honey-do list any time. Spending all week at a job only to come home on the weekend and do more chores, projects, or repairs is not a way of life. At least not in my opinion.
I’ve never been one for fancy decorations or high end appliances either. I can cook on a tile counter or a boat deck just as easy as I can on expensive granite. I can eat on a cheap patio table every bit as well as I can on a formal dining room set and the food don’t taste no different…
Well, maybe a little furry now and then but you get the idea. The point I’m trying to make here is that my house is not the focal point of my life. It’s not the be all end all of who I am and what I do. My current digs are simple and relatively maintenance free. This place requires virtually nothing on my part to keep it up. It has no sentimental value and as for being a home, it isn’t. It’s simply my current headquarters. A base of operations where I keep my few belongings and plot my evil conspiracies. My actual home, if you want to get technical, is the whole Florida Keys, and specifically, Key West. If I am able to travel and seek adventure in the coming years, I know that short of some major disaster, my home will always be in the Keys. Whether that home is in the form of an apartment, a boat, or rv, it doesn’t really matter. Forming an attachment to an actual house or structure is not in the picture. It’s no different than forming an attachment to any other possession, it’s just a really big possession that requires a lot of attention. And that is something I have no desire to do.
There is way too much going on in life to worry about paint swatches or new cabinetry. Again, if that’s what makes you happy, good for you. But I suspect that if you are reading this blog you have a desire for a life over and above the ordinary. What is it? Travel? Learning some new skills? Writing? Music? Taking chances? It’s all there for the taking. Do you want your legacy to be some house that somebody else is currently remodeling…or a tombstone that simply says…”WOW!” on it. It’s your choice. Make it a life worth living.